Disclaimer: I don't own V for Vendetta. I only own Jay and I very much doubt that anyone cares.
A/N: Alright, so this is a fic. You read it then you review it. It takes place premovie. Sound good? Awesome! Let's get to it!
Chapter One: The First Sign
In another world, Jay might have been ordinary. But in the world she lived in, she was not. Being different was not always a bad thing, she had been told, but her difference was bad, being different in her world was wrong, a crime and a sin. Variety was to be kept to a minimum, and when she could barely keep up with the slang, Jay knew she was walking around with a giant 'X' painted on her forehead. In her native country she might have been considered nondescript, but in her new home she stuck out like a sore thumb. What bothered her was that she couldn't even stick out as a particularly beautiful specimen of some kind, whether of genius or body. In the eyes of her world, her life was nothing but a list of condemning eccentricities.
She lived in England, but she'd been raised in America since she was seventeen.
Her hair was just too light to be considered brown and just too dark to be considered blond.
Her eyes couldn't make up their mind between grey and blue.
And, worst of all, she was a writing major with minors in music and education in a country where more books and songs were confiscated than were created.
She was a walking, unpleasant anomaly, and she knew it.
Her professor was just finishing his lecture on Victorian ethics when she came back to herself, and she realized with an unhappy pang that there was far more written on the board than was recorded in her notebook. Before she could even thinking of scratching it all down, though, the professor declared the class over and took an eraser to the rectangular white board. Jay's pencil froze halfway through writing down the names and histories of the Bronte sisters as the eraser obliterated everything but the 'E' in Emily Bronte's name. Her forehead hit the notebook with a muted thud as she indulged in a hoarse groan.
"My life sucks."
"Well, maybe it would suck less if you paid attention in class," Beth, her classmate and closest confidant suggested. "Your eyes went all hazy about halfway through the class. After that it was just over and done with. What are you thinking about when you get like that?"
"More like where do I go," Jay grunted, swinging her all-too-heavy backpack over her shoulder.
"Whatever, love. Are you coming with us tonight? We're planning on risking curfew and getting into a bar someplace. Midterms are of the devil, and Jonathan decided that we all need some divine inspiration to finish that piece for Gunstan by next Monday."
"Naw. Thanks, but I hate hangovers. I still remember last New Year a little too well."
"That was almost a year ago! You can't be serious, Jay. Even you aren't that crazy."
"The entire bloody government, haven't you noticed? You are a Yankee after all," said Beth.
"Kinda hard to forget that."
By that time they were in the hall and as the other students disappeared around corners and through nearby doors, Beth stepped closer and said, "I took some more pictures. They're developed, and I'm adding them to the gallery tonight. Do you want to see them?"
"Sure," said Jay. "Would this be before or after you all get slobbering drunk?"
"Before. This isn't the sort of thing a drunk should look at."
"Tonight, then. My room."
Beth turned and left, hurrying off to her next class and leaving Jay to return to her dorm.
It wasn't a terribly long walk between buildings, but Jay had come to loathe being in the public eye for any length of time over the past few years. Every time she showed her face she could feel the eyes weighing down on her. 'Foreigner,' they said. 'Sickening'. Every corner hid a man with a black bag ready to be tossed over her head. Every pub or other gathering place hid a Fingerman looking for someone to arrest.
But in her dorm she at least felt safe, even if she knew that she really wasn't.
She stepped in from the noisy hallway to find her roommate sitting on the edge of her bed, one hand supporting an open book, the other resting protectively over her enlarged stomach.
"Good evening, Mary," said Jay. "How are you two this evening?"
Looking up from her book, Mary beamed at her friend like only a pregnant woman could. "We're doing splendidly, thank you, Jay. How were classes?"
"Eh, they were as good as classes ever are," she said. "How were yours?"
"Everything but social ethics class was wonderful."
Jay turned away to replace her books on the sagging self and let her mind wander as Maryreturned to reading. Neither of them was unaware of the intended slight given by placing the two undesirables in the same room together, but neither had ever really cared. There was a wonderful solace in having someone to share one's suffering with, and for every time Mary was the subject of a dirty joke or Jay was the target of some minor violence, the other was there always to comfort them.
Both of their crimes were terrible, even if they were completely opposite in nature. Jay was the spawn of an unholy marriage between an Englishman and an American woman, and her mother had dared the wrath of the English government by dying and sending her child to live in their country. Her father had shipped her off first to boarding school and then to a university, happily paying full tuition. They both knew that he cared for her on some level, but they also both understood that he could not risk openly taking her in for the sake of the public eye. Mary was the reverse. She had been born to a good, upstanding British family, but then she had become inexplicably and inexcusably pregnant, and she had also been shipped off to a university in an effort to hide her sins. No one bothered asking whether or not the child had been… created… with her consent.
They were incredibly different and very much the same all at once. This leant all the understanding needed to forge an unshakable alliance between the two of them. While it might not have been quite so friendly or open as Jay's relationship with Beth, it was even stronger in some ways, and they 'got' certain things about the other that few others would ever be able to grasp.
Social ethics class was the bane of Mary's existence. The teacher, like any good party member, would shoot discreet, sneering glances at her throughout the lesson, especially when words like purity, fidelity or responsibility were being used. Jay wanted to prank the ugly sucker, but Mary restrained her. She said it would be a bad example for the baby.
"You went to the doctor today, didn't you?" Jay asked, turning back to her roommate.
Mary was blushing scarlet, and she let her book fall closed, forgotten by her side as she brought her other hand up to cradle her stomach. Her smile was restrained, but it was still enough to nearly split her face in two. "It's a boy."
Jay squealed. Before either one really registered what was happening, Jay had dropped to her knees in front of her friend and caught Mary's hands up in her own. "He will be beautiful," she said. "I know it. He'll look just like his mother. You're going to name him Augustus, right?"
"I was thinking more along the lines of… James," said Mary.
"But you said you were going to name him Augustus!"
"I said I would consider it."
"Aw, you're no fun," Jay said. "But I bet your kid will be."
A warning finger was raised into Jay's face, and Mary shook it emphatically as she spoke. "You will not be a bad influence for my son, Jay. Do you understand me?" She paused, a dreamy look crossing over her face. "My son…"
"Yes. Little James Augustus…"
"But it's a good name!"
"For a Roman maybe."
"Look, Mary, I know that you have a bad taste in names, but honestly, don't you think James is just too…"
"Am I interrupting a lover's spat here, or what?"
Both guilty parties spun like they'd been caught with swords drawn at a peace conference and shuffled their hands awkwardly under Beth's commanding stare.
"She wants me to name my baby Augustus," said Mary.
"She wants to name him JAMES! Do you know how many people in the world are named James?" said Jay.
"No," Beth said, "do you?"
"Well, not exactly, but there're a lot!"
"I'm sure," said Beth. "But that's not why I'm here. If I remember correctly you said something about seeing my pictures…?"
"Oh, yes! Sorry, got distracted."
"With a pregnant roommate? What a shocker. I just can't wait till she pops the blasted thing out so you'll quit worrying and return to the land of the wild and free college students."
"Hey!" Mary said. "I don't make her stick around all the time."
"But you don't argue that she does," said Beth.
"True." Mary frowned, then she turned to Jay. "Jay, get out of here. Go have some fun. Look at Beth's photos and then I order you to go out and enjoy yourself. Whether or not drinking is involved is up to you, but if I find you sitting at your computer when I come back this evening…"
"Come back?" Jay asked. "Where are you going?"
"I want to go to church," Mary said, shyly toeing the room's one area rug, "thank God for my son… for my safe carriage thus far."
"Well, you have fun getting sore knees," said Beth. "I'm going to abduct your roommate now. Good bye!"
"Good bye, Beth! Make sure she enjoys herself!"
"Oh, believe you me, I will!"
And then the door closed, and the two friends continued on down the hall, leaving their pregnant comrade in peace.
Beth's room was one of the few singles in the entire complex and had been the envy of many a student over the years. As a senior she rejoiced in her reclaimed solitude and she kept her visitors down to a precious few. Jay was one of those visitors, and she studied the sprawling collage on her friend's wall with rapt interest.
This was Beth's lifework, the one thing she hoped to leave to the world, a true record of the times in which they lived. The main focus of every picture was different, and it was almost impossible to find any connection between them unless one looked past the foreground and looked behind the scenes. Hidden away in a right hand corner would the image of a soldier standing with his gun at the ready. Flashing his badge to some unfortunate soul there was a fingerman, half hidden by the flowering bush which seemed to be the subject of the photo. There were hundreds of such images, each unique and each incredibly dangerous to possess. If a dumb man were to look at the images he would merely roll his eyes at the creative insanity of it all and move on. However, if a clever man were to look at the collage, he would see a wall of rebellion, of close and wrathful observation that threatened to spill over into action. If the authorities should find Beth's work and realize what it stood for, Jay had little doubt that her colleague would disappear under a black bag, never to be seen again.
In Jay's eyes it was a thing of tremendous power.
She studied the latest additions with reflective solemnity. They all told the same story: hidden violence covered over by a picture perfect world which no one could believe in.
"They're marvelous," she said.
"They're horrible," Beth corrected. She carefully took the photo from Jay's hands and stuck a generous loop of tape on the back of each corner. "It would be marvelous if all this could actually serve some purpose. As things stand the only likely outcome of these pictures is a bonfire and a jail cell."
"Oh, don't be so depressing," said Jay. "I thought we were supposed to be having fun this evening."
Anything Beth might have said was cut off by the sudden arrival of a very loud, off-key voice.
"Yankee doodle went to town, riding on a pony, stuck a feather in her hat and called it macaroni…" A young man swept into the room and grabbed a hold of Jay. As he continued to sing, he began dancing her around in circles, spinning them both dizzy in a matter of seconds. "Yankee doodle keep it up, Yankee Doodle dandy, mind the music and the step and with the boys be handy!"
"Jonathan, you outrageous flirt, leave Jay alone," said Beth.
"But she's so much more fun than you, love!"
"But I'm not your girlfriend," Jay giggled as Jonathan dropped her into a dip. "Shouldn't you be dancing with your lady?"
"Why would I do that?" said Jonathan. "I can dance with her any old day of the week."
"Well this day of the week we are all three going out, so drop her and let's go," Beth said.
Jonathan obliged in a very literal sense. In a second Jay was back on her feet, and Beth followed them both at a distance as Jay chased her boyfriend halfway to the nearest pub.
Jay stumbled back to her room much later that night, high on sugar and laughter and very slightly tipsy from a few sips of her friends' drinks. She made a grand entrance, flinging the door open and shouting "Honey, I'm home!"… only to be met with a dark, empty room. There was no sign of Mary anywhere.
For almost an hour Jay forced herself to wait patiently, finishing up a bit of homework and even going so far as to clean up her side of the room. But then the seconds began to seem impossibly long, and she began to worry. How long could it possibly take someone to pray?
So she went out. It was well after curfew, but she was past caring. Mary was out there, and in her condition… Jay just needed to find her, that was all.
Fifteen minutes of prowling the campus uncovered nothing, and Jay was forced to extend her search. Another five minutes and there was still no sign of her quarry.
And then, quite suddenly, she found her.
At first she thought that the dark shape huddled against the wall was just a forgotten trash bag or a strangely-cast shadow. But then the shadow moved, and it groaned. Seconds later Jay was kneeling by Mary's side, grabbing for her pale, sweaty hands and trying to smooth the tangled hair out of her face. The scene was a horrible mockery of her reaction to Mary's news earlier that afternoon.
"Mary? Mary. What happened? Are you alright? Mary?"
"Fingermen," she whispered. "Drunk. They hit me, and now I think…" she cut herself off with a scream, and she clenched Jay's hands so hard she was afraid that something might break.
"Oh, Mary. The baby?"
"Yes. It's…" Another scream.
"Hold on, Mary, hold on! I'll get help. You can't have it here."
"No… no choice, love."
"But it's too early!"
It was a terrible birthing. Mary was already weak and bloody from her beating, and the child within had been disturbed enough to come much, much too soon. Jay kept her word, she called for help, screamed even, but no one could hear, or if they could, they didn't care enough to intervene. Mary had her baby in the gutter, and the poor thing didn't survive for more than a few minutes. Almost as long as its mother.
When the tiny boy finally slipped out, Jay wrapped him in her jacket, trying to clean off the blood, and then handed him over to his mother, who cradled him to her chest even as the light began to dim in both their eyes.
"James," she said. "James for Jay."
"What do you mean, Mary?" Jay asked. "James for Jay?"
"He's named after you," Mary said. "Little James. Augustus is a horrible name."
Jay's hand trembled as she stroked the little tuft of hair peeking out from the jacket, and she bit the inside of her cheek to keep her own tears at bay. She didn't have to wait long before she could shed them. The mother and child died in the street together, and Jay kept vigil over them till morning, when the authorities found them and called the coroner.
It was all hushed up, of course. They skipped the part about the Fingermen in the official report and simply claimed that the poor girl had suffered a horrific miscarriage.
Jay could have killed them, but Beth and Jonathan were there to keep her in check, just as Mary had been there to prevent her from getting that awful ethics teacher. They all stood together at the funeral, suffering together in a deeper mourning than the parents on the other side of the coffin could ever feel for their wayward daughter and the grandchild they would never meet.
It was the first sign for the remaining three friends that things could not stay as they were, that something was bound to change.
A letter from Jay's father was the second sign.
A/N: The second chapter is already in progress, and I promise that our beloved V shall be introduced in either that one or the next. And you don't need an account to review! Feed the starving authors! Leave a review!